Best Practices for the IAM/Compliance Journey

As explained in my recent post, I am awaiting final publication of a white paper I recently authored, entitled, “Identity and Access Management – Enabling HIPAA/HITECH Compliance.”  This post is a excerpt from that paper.

In the thirteen years since the initial passage of the HIPAA act, practical experience in the field has yielded several recommended best practices for implementing IAM systems to enable HIPAA/HITECH compliance. We recommend the following:

  1. Understand requirements. By developing a better understanding of compliance requirements, how compliance affects information technology (IT), and how IT in general and IAM specifically can help support the privacy, security and notification requirements of HIPAA/HITECH, companies can establish efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable programs that address all of these complex requirements within a holistic compliance framework.

  2. Recognize IT's critical role. In many companies, IT has evolved to become the critical backbone behind almost every operation, but many people still view technology as a cost rather than an investment or asset. By understanding the key roles that IT plays in support of HIPAA/HITECH compliance, enterprises can maximize the value of their technology investment.

  3. Understand the role of IAM. IAM plays a critical role in compliance with HIPAA/HITECH privacy, security and notification requirements.. However it does not automatically satisfy all HIPAA/HITECH requirements. Recognizing the value and the limitations of IAM in the entire spectrum of HIPAA/HITECH compliance is essential.

  4. Think program, not project. HIPAA/HITECH compliance is a journey, not a short term event. Enterprises must begin to approach compliance as a long-term program, not a single project. An effective and holistic compliance program should also incorporate governance and risk management. Boards of directors and executives are frequently being held to higher standards than ever before as they are expected to be knowledgeable about, and held liable for, everything going on within the enterprise.

  5. Establish privacy and security policy. A success privacy and security program requires a documented set of principles, policies, and practices. Using the Nationwide Privacy and Security Framework for Electronic Exchange of Individually Identifiable Health Information as a guide, the enterprise's privacy and security principles should be documented as a foundation upon which to build policies, practices and strategies.

  6. Develop a strategy. The only way to effectively address the wide spectrum of compliance requirements is to integrate them into a common compliance strategy that is intertwined with the business itself. A business-driven, risk-based, and technology-enabled compliance strategy can help create enterprise value by rationalizing unnecessary complexities, driving consistency and accountability across the enterprise, and identifying opportunities for a possible enhancement of operational performance and information quality.

  7. Collaborate. HITECH extends compliance responsibility and penalties to all business associates. Work closely with your vendors and business partners to form an overall security and privacy framework, including updating legal relationship documents as ncessary.

  8. Establish a governance process. Compliance efforts affect a broad spectrum of an enterprise. Stakeholders from many organizations, often with conflicting priorities, have vested interests in the outcomes of a compliance strategy. The governance process must provide representation from the impacted functional areas of the organization. A governance board should have appropriate representation from IT, security, audit, application owners, human resources, business process owners and applicable business associates. The board should be accountable for the project objectives and be vested with authority to make program decisions. The board should be empowered to 1) establish a statement of purpose for the program, 2) promote and give visibility to the program throughout the larger organization, 3) act as a mechanism for quickly making decisions regarding program scope, issues, and risks, and 4) monitor the program health on an ongoing basis.

  9. Implement your strategy in phases. By segmenting the overall solution into manageable parts, an organization can realize quick, visible business benefits and progressively realize overall program objectives in an orderly, measurable way. Implementing in manageable phases also makes it easier to battle issues such as scope creep or requirements drift.

  10. Standards. Follow the NIST and other applicable standards for electronic healthcare records. Adjust to form a compliance model with this emerging standard. Focus on open standards and vendors that are open standards compliant to insure long-term flexibility of computing platforms and security frameworks.

  11. Give real-time visibility. Real-time views into the functioning of controls across these systems and across the enterprise, through job-specific dashboards or portal views, can provide insight into compliance status, progress, and risks. Effective communications with all stakeholders is essential.

  12. Unify disparate compliance efforts. Many companies are beginning to realize the potential of technology to support sustained compliance and are actively looking to combine existing fragmented, reactive, and inefficient governance and compliance efforts into a single sustainable compliance program. Bringing together compliance, governance, and risk management under a holistic framework, can result in a centralized compliance organization with the understanding, structure, and ability to help optimize the company’s compliance efforts in a sustainable, strategic, and cost effective manner.

  13. Assess progress and adjust as necessary. Each phase of the progressive implementation of the compliance strategy will yield more in-depth understanding about the compliance process as it pertains to the specific enterprise. Implementing methods of continual process improvement will yield progressively refined results.

Please let me know what you think.  What have you found that really works in this IAM/Compliance Journey?

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About

Discovering Identity was founded on blogs.sun.com in May 2005 as a means of documenting my exploration of the field of Identity and Access Management. In February, 2010, I switched to hosting the blog at DiscoveringIdentity.com. In March 2012, I began posting Oracle-related information in both places.

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The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Oracle Corporation, or any other person or organization.

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